Search Industry Today — The State of Search Track

After a great keynote, I ran downstairs, grabbed a coffee and found myself a spot at the front of the session room. There’s power here, so you know I’m happy. Our moderator Pauline Ores gets us started.

panelists during Search Industry Today session at SES Chicago 2009

Our speakers this time around are, from right to left, Heather Dougherty, Hitwise; Anne F. Kennedy, Beyond Ink; Kevin Lee, Didit; and David Pann, Yahoo! Inc. The panelist do a quick rundown of their view on search. Basically they’re all in favor. Surprising, I know. They’re going to be doing a mostly Q&A session which I totally did not sign up for.

Heather Dougherty has a small presentation, though, so we’ll start with that.

Regarding the Rupert Murdoch controversy: Visits to search engines increased 11 percent year over year. Why would you not want to participate in something like that? The search engines are a significant source of traffic to the newspapers. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of that?

The newspapers should take a lesson from pharma. The FDA stepped in on their advertising and it had an immediate impact on their business. Who got the traffic?, lawyers, recall sites. The brand owners lost out.

Anne Kennedy is up next with a small presentation as well. She’s been in search for 13 years.

In October, there were 50 searches per American.

Trends she sees: Mobile, visual search, universal search and digital assets. In-house SEO staff is rising to near 30 percent (30 percent of what? No idea.)

Universal pushes normal SERPs down. We know this but look at where number one is if there’s a local 10 pack? Practically below the fold.

The hover preview on Bing covers the ads. It’s generated by looking for “the most keywords”. [steeples fingers]

She pulls up the eyetracking map and points out that it’s changed since 2006. It’s more widespread. Pictures draw the eye.

Next short presentation is Kevin Lee. Seriously they’re speeding through these and I’m out of practice. He thinks that the measured SEO ROI is going to plummet.

  1. more content competition
  2. personalized results and geo ads
  3. more paid ads

In terms of PPC, you need to make sure that you’re giving the right amount of credit. How do you overcome last click counts? Everyone wants to measure brand lift but no one is actually doing it. How do we overcome being a direct response medium?

Kevin uses a lot of text on his slides.

slide during Search Industry Today presentation at SES Chicago 2009

He warns that you shouldn’t get roped into a performance deal without a robust attribution model. Good advice. Consider re-targeting when you’re experimenting. Know which cookie pool you’re pulling from. He likes to use his own.

Viewthroughs are not the be all and end all of search.

You need centralized reconciliation of your leads or you’ll end up paying for them more than once.

David Pann hops up last without any slides at all. His job is responsible for the search marketplace. They’re optimizing for consumer relevancy, publisher ROI and revenue. Early 2009 was very volatile, matching the economic situation. Query behavior changed, educational queries spiked. The consumer behavior changed and the dollars spent per consumers went way down. Advertisers were focused on a keyword by keyword approach instead of a campaign level approach.

They’re looking to learn how to capture intent. No one books a trip with just one search.


What new ways are the engines allowing advertisers to connect with consumers?

David: Search engines are like big pharma. They start out experiments in advance and test and test long before it comes to market. You’re nearly always in an experiment bucket of some kind. Brand was one of their areas of focus, search and display is another. They still need to improve there.

Kevin: Pretty much all the engines are retooling their APIs at this point in time. As your advertising gets more complicated, you can’t just do it all in spreadsheets anymore. You need to use a tool. APIs help you with that. He wishes there were a more common technology standard across the APIs. There’s a committee on that.

Anne: Sounds like there’s an opportunity for someone to make a really great tool.

How prevalent is the use of search and display targeting?

Kevin: For us, the primary factor is traffic. If you’re using your own cookie pool, you need a pretty broad user base. 500,000 visitors and up per month is needed.

David: We have a product called search retargeting that’s a display product that refocuses the display ads based on a user’s searches.

Pauline: For most brands, it’s hard to get SEM and SEO aligned in the organization. It’s not anyone’s job.

Kevin: People keep getting distracted from the basic, move the needle stuff by the “sexy” complicated stuff like social media. Look at your prioritization and make sure that you’re getting it done.

Heather: You’re talking about needing to react quickly but at Hitwise we’re interested in past behavior. What did someone do last year so that we can anticipate what they’re doing this year?

David: The economy made us go back to basics. We wanted to help our advertisers refine their campaigns and update them — all the basic stuff that provided tremendous uplift. It’s not always about the new widgets. You can put all the lipstick you want on that pig. They’re taking information from the black box of search and feeding it to the advertisers. Listen to your account reps are telling you. That basic optimization strategy has been vetted by the science of the search engine. For the most part, it’ll help.

Anne agrees that you need to go back to basics. Make sure your landing pages are relevant, that your ads are relevant. It’s no use going to re-targeting if you’re not on target in the first place.

Everyone’s saying you need to focus on the fundamentals but those have evolved. What are the “fundamentals” of search marketing now? Is there a list?

Kevin says that’ll be his ClickZ article this week. Hee.

David: We have resources that will help you.

Anne: What about SEMPO Institute?

Kevin agrees (naturally, since he’s on the board) that SEMPO is a good resources. There are also a lot of great books out there. Check out the chapter headings.

Anne: There’s a session at the end of the week on landing page fundamentals by Tim Ash.

Pauline emphasizes the need to always be testing. Demonstrate value.

The guy next to me asks about mobile and search and social media and search.

[Dude, I think those are two separate sessions, not a five minute question.]

Anne graciously says that mobile is lagging in the US but it’s still gaining and you need to focus on it. Kevin says that mobile search advertising isn’t end-game. It’s harder to tie the transactions back to the search as well. That inhibits the willingness to test because you can’t prove ROI.

Social is top of mind like search is. It’s like watching the news, what’s going on right now.

Anne said SEO is dead. What happens next if SEO is dead? And if it’s not dead, what is it?

Anne: To be perfectly clear, I said it was evolving, not dead. Mike Grehan is the one who said it was dead. It’s more than the ten blue links. Those are what’s dead. It’s not about top ten rankings anymore. You need to go into different areas and optimize for images and videos and all your other digital content.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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